Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to around half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The global population of mountain gorillas increased to over 1,063 from the 880 (2011) total divided between the 3 African countries i.e. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (BNP) is situated in southwestern Uganda, on the edge of the Western Rift Valley (Albertine Rift), and is shared by Kanungu, Kabale, and Kisoro districts.
It was gazette in 1991 and covers 331 sq km on an altitude range of 1,160 meters (Ishasha Gorge) to 2,607 meters (Rwamanyonyi Peak). The park is owned by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a parastatal government body.
The park has 11 other primate species such as L”Hoest’s, red-tailed and blue monkeys, black and white colobus, baboons, and chimpanzees.
There are also 350 species of birds,23 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley, and 14 bird species that are only found in Bwindi Forest.
This Afromontane forest has a dense understorey of fern, vines, and shrubs. There are about 324 tree species recorded here with 8 endemic plants, and 3 waterfalls and it is home to the Batwa Community.
Bwindi Park has at least 200 butterfly species including the eight Albertine rift endemics and numerous reptiles.
Things to do in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla treks begin at 8 AM every day with a briefing session after that groups of a maximum of eight tourists trek into the mysterious jungle for the ultimate gorilla experience. The trek can last between 1-8 hours and you get to spend 1 hour in the presence of the gorillas before you descend back to the trailhead.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is separated into 4 gorilla viewing areas:
There are about 20 habituated gorilla groups in the park and split into 4 accessible regions.
Buhoma, the park’s headquarters located in the north of the park and has 5 Gorilla Families, Habinyanja, Katwe, Mubare, Muyambi, and Rushegura.
Ruhija is the highest gorilla-tracking trailhead and lies east of the park. The Ruhija Gorilla Families are 4 and include, Bitukura, Kyaguriro, Mukiza, and Oruzogo.
Nkuringo covers the southwestern area of Bwindi Forest—furthermore, the most challenging of all gorilla tracking locations. Gorilla groups are 2, Nkuringo and Bushaho.
Rushaga covers the southern edge of Bwindi Forest, most of all became a gorilla site in 2009. The Rushaga Gorilla Families are 9, Nshongi, Mishaya, Mucunguzi, Kahungye, Kutu, Busingye, Bikingi, Bweza, and Rwigi.
Gorilla Habituation Experience.
The Gorilla Habituation Experience follows one of the families that are in the process of being accustomed to tourist visits. The habituation experience takes a maximum of 4 tourists to spend more time with the family of gorillas (a total of 4 hours is allowed). You are accompanied by a team of rangers and researchers to perform their daily tasks of grooming and taking records of a wild gorilla group so that it can be habituated for future visits. There are 2 gorilla groups for the habituation experience in Nkuringo and Rushaga areas.
Bwindi Forest has about 350 bird species recorded of which 23 species are Albertine Rift Endemics and 14 are only found in Bwindi Forest. The birding tours in Bwindi are commonly done along the Buhoma Waterfall Trail, Bamboo Zone, Echuya Forest Reserve, Mubwindi Swamp Trail in Ruhiija, Rushaga
Hiking and Nature walks.
Rushura Hill Walk.
This nature walk takes place at the highest point in Buhoma Sector at an elevation of 2,500 meters above sea level. This hike takes 3-4 hours and gives you a chance to catch a bird’s eye view of Queen Elizabeth National Park, a savannah gem beautifully laid out at the heart of the river valley. If it is a clear day, you will catch sight of its sky blue lakes too, Lake George and Lake Edward.
You may also get a chance to view the snow-capped peaks of Mountain Rwenzori from the Rushura trail as well as view the conical Peaks of the Virunga volcanoes.
Muzabajiro Loop Trail
This 6 km trail takes about 3 hours to hike and offers opportunities to climb the summit of Rukubira Hill- Views of Bwindi Forest, Virunga Volcanoes, and Western rift valley.
The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail
This trail takes 3-4 hours and crosses through the park, connecting the two villages and offering magnificent views of the misty hillsides as you ascend the hills toward Nkuringo. This trail can also be completed as part of the Ivi River Walk.
Muyanga Waterfall Trail
This trail takes about 30 minutes and starts from Buhoma along the River Ivi-Nkuringo trail. It climaxes at a refreshing powerful waterfall that cascades over a 33-meter high slope. On its floor, you will find lots of ponds with crystal clear water where you can have a refreshing swim. It is a less challenging trail and can be taken up by all sorts of travelers. Look out for bird species and primates along the forest edge.
River Ivi Trail
This is an 8-hour hiking trail that covers a 14km trail from Buhoma to Nkuringo. The Ivy River Trail has two starting points, Nkuringo Sector in the southern part and Buhoma Sector, the central part of the park. Travelers encounter forest mammals, small primates, butterflies, and birds on the trail. You are likely to meet some Local people as they often use this route to access the Nteko market.
Mubwindi Swamp Trail in the Ruhija sector
Mubwindi Swamp Trail takes 4-5 hours of hiking and offers stunning views of the Virunga ranges and Kigezi Highland regions. Look out for primates and different bird species.
Bamboo Trail in the Ruhija sector
The Bamboo Trail takes about 7 hours and is a challenging trail as it takes you up a steep elevation of 2607 meters. The viewpoint is the highest in the whole park. At this steep viewpoint, tourists are rewarded with scintillating sights of Virunga massif, Lake Bunyonyi, and Bwindi Forest.
Kashasha River Trail goes across Buhoma to Nkuringo sectors
Kashasha River Trail can begin from either Buhoma or Nkuringo. It has a steep inclination that connects Buhoma and Nkuringo which is 600 meters high. The trekkers also pass through an intersection of two rivers. The trail embraces the visitors with a variety of plants, flowers, and numerous bird species. It takes 4-5 hours to complete Kashasha River Trail.
Community-Based Tours among the Bakiga and Batwa.
Cultural tours/ Village walks tours include visiting the local ironsmith, a visit to a crafts village, a trip to the traditional leader, a visit to the local women’s group ( ride 4 a woman) and you can also participate in one of the traditional dances or skits.
Batwa Experience ‘the keepers of the forest’. Learn about the way of life of the Batwa communities in Bwindi Park through the Batwa Development Program. Learn how the Batwa lived and hunted, learn about medicinal plants, and watch for animals and birds. You will hear ancient legends and traditional songs, watch energetic dances, and join in on a mock hunting party. You can even test your skill with a Batwa bow and arrow.
Where to Stay in Bwindi National Park
Where to stay in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park depends on the sector for the gorilla trailhead and below are the recommendations.
The Haven Lodge
Haven Lodge is a mid-range lodge under Buhoma Community Rest Camp Ltd. The Haven Lodge has the most amazing views of the rainforest from its terraces. It features 8 beautifully designed twin/double cottages and 1 family cottage, all self-contained (en suite) and merging simple elegance with local materials.
The lodge features 10 en-suite chalets that have been individually designed and carefully built using locally sourced materials wherever possible. The chalets have their own private verandas allowing wonderful views and vistas of the forest canopy of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Some chalets also offer a bathtub for relaxation and enjoyment after the day’s activities.
The family/honeymoon chalet, in addition to all of the above, also features a separate lounge room with an open fireplace.
Other facilities include a reception area, an open-air lounge, a bar area that offers uninterrupted views of the forest, a dining room, a spa treatment room, and a gift shop.
Mahogany Springs Lodge is located in the Buhoma region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, within a 5–10-minute walk or a 2-minute drive of the gorilla trekking starting point.
Perched on top of the Munyanga River, overlooking Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mahogany Springs consists of 12 Luxury Suites, surrounded by beautiful gardens and panoramic views of the verdant valley.
The suites are categorized into Honeymoon Suite, Family Suite that has 2 bedrooms, 2 en-suite bathrooms , and spacious living rooms that lead to private terraces and 9 superior suites. Other facilities include a main area with a spacious restaurant, a panoramic terrace, a lounge, a bar, a massage parlor, and a gift shop.
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp
Each tent has a spacious, stone-walled bathroom with private sections, and a free-standing bath for a relaxing soak after a day’s trekking. Other facilities include, a bar and dining cottage overlooking the rainforest, and a raised natural platform is built for open air-dining.
The camp has a comfortable lounge with a well-stocked bar and elegant dining area, with great views over the verdant rainforest.
The mini spa at the Camp offers the perfect way to end a long day of gorilla trekking. The central campfire and swap stories of that day’s adventures.
Gorilla Mist Camp
The camp features 12 rooms with views of the Bwindi Forest Canopy and Virunga mountain ranges. All the rooms are en-suite, spacious with twin beds, a flush toilet, a bathtub, and a balcony. Other facilities include a restaurant, a bar and lounge area, a massage parlor, and a gift shop.
Gorilla Safari Lodge
This remote lodge comprises 21 deluxe chalets each with private wooden balconies overlooking the wilderness. Each en-suite room has a wooden balcony with a view of the undulating jungle-covered landscape.
The balconies are furnished with a comfortable seating area, comprising chairs or couches. There are also small lounges/seating areas in each of the rooms.
Other facilities include the main lodge area which houses the dining room, a relaxation lounge, a spa treatment room, and a quaint nook where the bar is situated.
Chameleon Hill Lodge.
Perched high atop a hill, overlooking Lake Mutanda in South Western Uganda, is Chameleon Hill Lodge.
The lodge features 10 unique chalets, each with its own unique charm and character, with its own color scheme and private patio leading to the garden, they all share stunning views across the lake.
There is a modern en-suite bathroom and apparently the best showers in Uganda with a panorama window to enjoy the lake and volcanoes even when you shower. Other facilities include the main building which comprises a lounge and a library, and a dining room.
Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge
The lodge is a 10-minute walk to Rushaga gate of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, It has 10 spacious cottages all en-suite with a private balcony to enjoy the views of the forest. The lodge is furnished with local materials from the local community. Other facilities include a dining room, and bar/lounge.
Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge
The Lodge features 11 private cottages, two family-style villas, and three luxurious suites nestled above the Bwindi on a forested ridge with distinctive elegance. All cottages are spacious and en-suite with locally styled furnishings.
Other facilities include a cozy dining and reception area, volcanic stone fireplaces, and walls. The lodge is entirely eco-friendly, using solar power for light, natural gas for heating and cooking, and rainwater harvesting.
It has an onsite fresh vegetable garden to supply the kitchen with your fresh veggie delights.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
This community luxury lodge is the closest to Nkuringo Gorilla Group and consists of a chalet-like main lodge. The 10 stone cottages are built from local volcanic stone and outfitted with handwoven rugs and works from the country’s most renowned artists.
The cottages have loft-like interiors with African-themed art, high-beamed ceilings, a spacious bedroom, a lounge area, and an en suite bathroom with a shower.
A fireplace links the bedroom and lounge, ensuring the rooms are cozy and warm in the cool evenings. Other facilities include a lounge area, dining room, a bar, garden, and terrace.
How to get to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be easily accessed by air or road. Most travelers arrive in Uganda via Entebbe International Airport.
By Flight. There are two airstrips close to the Bwindi region – Kisoro, and Kihihi – located just outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Both airstrips offer daily flights from Entebbe, and the flight takes around 1.5 hours, and then another 1.5 – 2 hours drive to your lodge.
By driving from Kampala or Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The drive takes 9-10 hours.
Best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Park is open for gorilla trekking all year long, however, the best times are,
June to August and December to February. The forest trails are dry and less slippery. This might result in a better experience and photography will be easier.
March-May, and October – December.
The long wet season months are September, October, November, and the early part of December. The short wet season begins around mid to late February and through March, April, and May. During these months, the heavy rains make the hiking trails slippery and visibility is also a challenge.
For bird watching, the November-April months tend to attract migratory birds. December to February is the best time for birding as there are fewer showers of rain. In May and June; the food supply is abundant and it is the main nesting season. March-May; there are usually heavy rains and the hiking trails tend to be slippery.
Best Time to Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Forest is open for gorilla tracking all year long, but the best time is from June to August and December to February. At this time there is much less rain or they’ve just started after a dry spell, and forest trails aren’t that slippery.
|Best time to go:||June to August and December to February (Drier trails make for easy mountain gorilla tracking)|
|High Season:||June to September (Gorilla permits need to be booked long in advance at any time of the year)|
|Low Season:||March, April, May, October & November (Some lodges and camps close down)|
|Best Weather:||June, July and December to February (Less rainfall)|
|Worst Weather:||April, May and September to November (High rainfall, forest trails might become slick and hard to travel)|
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